Amazon is spending millions of dollars designing and constructing a homeless shelter in the heart of downtown Seattle.
The online retail giant partnered with the non-profit Mary’s Place to transform one of its urban campuses into a home for the less fortunate, which will open in 2020 and house 275 people per night.
However, the eight-story shelter can only house a small portion of the homeless population in the area, as there are more than 12,000 people living on the streets in the county.
Amazon’s shelter will be the largest in the state of Washington.
John Schoettler, Amazon’s vice president for global real estate and facilities, said the company wanted to help the city’s homelessness crisis, which was declared as a state of emergency in 2015 by Mayor Ed Murray.
Schoettler made the announcement of the shelter in 2017 when he presented Marty Hartman, the executive director of Mary’s Place homeless shelter in Seattle, with a golden key to symbolize access to the eight-story building.
The tech giant released a statement two years ago saying, ‘As we grow in Seattle, we recognize the importance of investing in our hometown in ways that benefit our neighbors and our employees.
‘When Seattle Mayor Ed Murray declared a civil state of emergency on homelessness we wanted to help out in a time of great need.’
Mary’s Place will be responsible for funding its own operations, programming,and staff, but Amazon said it will foot the utilities bill and allow the organization to inhabit the space rent-free.
The plans show a large cafeteria like dinning room, playroom for children and personal bedrooms, which Hartman said will help ‘families to maintain their individual dignity’.
‘Every single one of them will feel loved, safe, and invited in,’ Hartman said in a video about the project.
‘It’s a place where their kids will be able to be kids, and their parents can work on the tough stuff.’
This is also the first Mary’s Place location to offer showers and bathtubs for its guests.
Altogether there will be 30 rooms for families to stay in, who will have access to health and legal clinics.
The individuals living in the shelter will share the new building with Amazon employees.
‘Maybe someday, if homelessness in Seattle is resolved, we can turn that back into space for ourselves,’ John Schoettler, an Amazon real estate executive, told the Seattle Times. ‘As far as I’m concerned, it’s theirs as long as they need it.’
But not everyone is convinced by Amazon’s generosity.
Amazon has been accused of gentrification and contributing to the city’s homelessness problem by expanding in Seattle and driving up housing costs.
Following the construction of its headquarters, rents went through the roof – the median rent in Seattle went increased by nearly 42 percent compared to just 18 percent nationwide, according to Business Insider.
The company is known for its weak philanthropic efforts compared to Boeing or Starbucks in Seattle.
Alan Durning of Sightline Institute, a nonprofit research organization, told the New York Times: ‘Its reputation in Seattle has certainly suffered. Doing things like this may be in its enlightened self-interest, right on site for the world to see.’
The homeless population in Kings County was the third-largest in the country last year after New York and Los Angeles, according to a Department of Housing and Urban Development report.